Go On, I Dare You! (Sound Familiar?)

Somewhere around the early seventies, I was regaling a hugely motivated friend with some wild story pertaining to my recent life experience. She said, “You know what drives me crazy about you? You dissipate all this talent talking out stories over the kitchen table. I want you to stat writing it down. Go on. I dare you. Stop being so lazy.” So I sat down and I dreamed up the Goldman family. …

I began to revel in the discovery that breathing life into pretend people and talking in their voices was the best fun in the world, like recovering that heavenly form of playing-by-myself that I’d done so much of in early childhood. It became a very audial thing, as I rapped out the different rhythms of my various characters’ speech and honed these sequences, making them more taut or more expansive, even sometimes changing the patterns they made on the page. And, whereas the sequences with the single first-person narrative voice were simpler, more like making music with one instrument, having lots of people talking was like making a more complex music.

Barbara Trapido, quoted in Maria Semple’s introduction to Trapido’s reissued first novel, Brother of the More Famous Jack

Transcribed by me from my Kindle edition of Brother of the More Famous Jack, originally published in 1982; Bloomsbury USA edition © 2014.


Tweet: Barbara Trapido says writing is audial—she hears it first, then writes it.
Tweet: Go on, I dare you—get started writing!

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  1. Interesting, especially for me at the moment – I’m participating in a weekly flash fiction linkup in which I’m telling a family story…the tale of a Marine tank crew in Viet Nam.

    There’s action, yes, but the main focus is on the relationships between the guys. It’s been pretty well received, and I’m glad of that, because it’s a story I needed to tell.

    If you’re interested in having a look at the latest installment, here it is –


  2. Sarah Harvey says:

    Barbara Trapido is THE BEST!!! And Marie Semple ain’t too shabby either.